Clubs are ruining their seasons because of a misguided view that they have a duty to loan out backup players…
Large Premier League clubs are consistently loaning out young and experienced players to their own detriment.
Sides such as Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United could be in stronger positions this season if they hadn’t allowed rivals to borrow players contracted to them.
The practice is normal, but in many cases, it actually defies logic.
Let’s take Liverpool (who are pretty appalling when it comes to the buying and selling of players as well) as an example:
During the summer, Brendan Rodgers let Andre Wisdom, a 21-year-old who’s captained the England Under-21s, join West Brom on loan for the campaign.
In his place, he signed Javier Manquillo on loan for two seasons. Manquillo is a year younger than Wisdom, and had made six professional appearances prior to this term. While this seems bizarre enough it itself, it’s important to realise that Jon Flanagan has been out for a number of months with a nasty injury, and Glen Johnson is prone to injuries and below-par form himself…
While Liverpool fans have debated over who should start between Johnson and Manquillo – essentially choosing between the lesser of two evils based on current form – West Brom have gratefully accepted the Wisdom gift. The stocky defender has made ten Premier League appearances so far, remaining solid at the back and producing a memorably sumptuous assist versus Manchester United. ‘Thanks very much,’ Baggies fans must be thinking.
But this isn’t even the worst of Liverpool’s crimes in the loan market. Having spent £10m on Belgian World Cup star Divock Origi, the club loaned him straight back to Lille, with a clause inserted that it will cost an extra £5m to terminate the loan and bring him to Anfield early.
Due to Daniel Sturridge’s injury, the Reds have had to rely on Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini up top – none of whom have notched a Premier League goal yet.
The Origi loan is like buying somebody’s car, but letting them drive it for a year while you’re stuck using the bus.
What’s more, the Reds have centre-backs Tiago Ilori and Sebastian Coates out on loan, while £20m summer signing Dejan Lovren is quickly proving that he can’t defend to save his life. They also lent Pepe Reina to Napoli last season and spent £9m on Simon Mignolet, an inferior keeper, to replace him.
Again, where is the logic?
Fortunately for the Reds though, they’re not the only club lending out players willy-nilly.
Step forward, Arsenal.
Everyone with even a vague interest of football could have suggested that Arsenal were defensively light at the start of the season, without even taking into account the Gunners’ penchant for an injury crisis. Almost predictably, £12m summer signing Mathieu Debuchy and star centre-back Laurent Koscielny picked up nasty injuries, meaning Arsene Wenger has had to deploy left-back Nacho Monreal at the heart of defence, and £16m youngster Calum Chambers on the right.
Chambers is better at centre-back, and his poor performances out of position must be doing nothing to bolster his confidence. Carl Jenkinson, a 22-year-old England international, entirely comfortable at right-back, is spending 2014/15 on loan at West Ham. Jenkinson is no world-beater, but he’s played eight league games so far for the side two places above the Gunners in the table.
‘Why has my club shot themselves in the foot like this?’ fans of these clubs will cry…
The teams either nurtured these players through the youth ranks or spent decent money on them; and undoubtedly pay each one thousands upon thousands pounds per week – only to let a rival use them instead. In fact, in many circumstances, clubs continue paying players a portion of their wage even when they’re working for somebody else. A truly barbaric business practice, anyone would agree.
Manchester United are in a situation where they’ve been forced to loan stars out because they’ve got too many players of similar ability. But if Real Madrid are taking Javier Hernandez and Guillermo Varela (a right-back) temporarily off your hands, shouldn’t you be wondering if they could have added something to your own Europe-less and defensively malnourished squad…? Defender Michael Keane is never going to play for United long-term, but with the current crisis at the back Louis van Gaal would at least like to have the option of putting him on the bench. He’s sitting on Burnley’s bench instead.
Even Chelsea, this year’s champions in waiting, have made mistakes in the loan market. Romelu Lukaku blasted 15 Premier League goals last term, far more than any of that season’s batch of Blues forwards (Samuel Eto’o, Demba Ba and Fernando Torres) could manage. It’s not farcical to suggest that Lukaku’s goals would have actually secured Jose Mourinho’s men the title last time around.
This season, they’ve gotten away with loaning out countless players because their squad is incredible – but Liverpool and Arsenal are not in such a privileged position, and United are not either defensively.
Smaller Premier League clubs such as Stoke are arguably guilty themselves, too. Asmir Begovic, although a solid keeper, is actually enduring a pretty poor season. A decent backup breathing his neck could have increased the Bosnian’s level, but England’s most talented young stopper Jack Butland is on loan at Derby.
The issue of course is that clubs want their young players to gain first-team experience, and their elder players to leave to avoid disrupting squad harmony.
This is largely disregarded though when you realise that Wisdom, Origi, Jenkinson, last season’s Lukaku, and even Hernandez, would be getting first-team football right now if they hadn’t gone on loan.
Clubs have a right to treat the men they pay absurd amounts of money to as employees, who are prepared to train hard and stay fit until they are needed in the first-team.
We won’t know how much better Arsenal, Liverpool and United would have done this term had they kept the players they decided to loan out – but it wouldn’t have been any worse…